Organic Farm and Distillery Tasting Experience on Maui
By Madelyn Marie Kittle
Walking onto the property of this Kula, HI distillery, located on the slopes of Haleakalā, one immediately notices a beautiful green lawn, towering palm trees, and lush sugarcane growth. At the edge of the grass, looking over the farmland growing USDA-certified organic produce used in the distillery, the kitchen, and at the bar, the West Maui mountains tower in the distance, making their outdoor area a perfect place to catch the sunset– while enjoying one of their delicious cocktails, of course.
Rebecca, who arranged our tasting, recommends that patrons come early on weekends to secure their spot at one of the picnic tables or Adirondack chairs spread over the vast lawn. She also stated that they are hoping to have live music during sunsets very soon. The distillery offers 10% off the tasting experience for Kamaʻāina, Military, and Senior Citizens.
History of Ocean Organic Vodka
Our guide for the tasting was CJ, whose Filipino ancestors worked with sugarcane plantations on Maui in the 1800s, and who was very knowledgeable about the business, the land, and the ocean from whence their flagship vodka’s mineral water is derived. The Ocean Organic Vodka, launched in 2006, is uniquely composed of 40% Distilled Organic Sugar Cane and 60% Deep Ocean Mineral Water drawn from the depths of 3,000 feet off the Kona Coast of the Big Island. These 70 different minerals include magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which “create a unique and velvety finish.”
Our guided tour included a brief history of the distillery, like the fact that it was started in 2005 by Shay Smith, a local man born and raised on Maui, whose family still works on the farm today. The farmlands produce bananas, various citrus, vanilla beans, and thirty varieties of sugarcane.
The Vodka Production Process from Farm to Glass
It takes eight pounds of sugar to yield one gallon of vodka, and 18-24 months to harvest a crop. The process of making their vodka starts with something called sugar beer, which is yeast and sugar combined. It is next transferred to a towering continuous distillation column, designed by master distiller Bill Scott. These columns contain cooling plates, and as the sugar beer is heated, the cooled vapor drips down the plates. Their system creates an equivalent of distilling 30-40 times in a single pass. The distillery produces two million liters of organic vodka per year.
Kula Rum and Ocean Vodka Tasting
Our tasting of the distillery’s six different spirits took place after the tour. As we settled around the large rectangular bar situated nicely under a covered area, CJ began talking about the products we would taste. First up were their three Kula Pacific rums, in differing proofs, flavors, and colors. The fewer times a rum is distilled, the more flavor it contains at the finish.
We tried their Kula Toasted Coconut (35% ALC/VOL 70 PROOF), made from pressed coconut, which had a slight toasted marshmallow flavor and would be delicious in hot chocolate or alone with a twist of lime over ice. Next up was their Kula Dark (40% ALC/VOL 80 PROOF), which had a strong molasses flavor and was not as sweet, but would go fantastically with ginger beer in a Dark n’ Stormy cocktail. It presented a very nice body warming effect after imbibing. Finishing out the first level of rums was their light version, Kula Organic Rum (40% ALC/VOL 80 PROOF), which had notes of banana and coconut and would be divine in a Mai Tai.
Next, we moved on to the vodka in the gorgeous ocean blue bottle– shaped like antique Japanese fishing floats– that sits at a 23.5° angle like the axis of the Earth. The Ocean Earth’s Organic Vodka (40% ALC/VOL 80 PROOF) goes down smoother than Tito’s and would make any cocktail tastier, including their own “Local Girl,” made with POG juice, soda, and a li-hing mui (Chinese plum) garnish. If you purchase one of these incredible keepsake bottles, tag the distillery on social media and your post could be featured on one of the distillery’s own socials.
Rounding out the first level of the tasting was their fantastic FY Hawaii Wet Organic Gin (42.5% ALC/VOL 85 PROOF), “crafted from five different botanicals perfectly balanced to excite all five taste receptors: sugar cane, lime, juniper, lavender, and ginger.” This was by far my favorite of the tasting, and I was able to experience this delicious spirit in their “Lavender Lemonade” cocktail, made with fresh-squeezed lemonade and Ali’i Kula lavender.
For the few lucky souls who had the foresight to prepay for the next level, the final tasting was of their $150 / bottle BRUM World Solera Rum (40% ALC/VOL 80 PROOF), whose creatively shaped vessel is modeled after antique Kawaii-style purple poi (a root vegetable) pounders. The rum itself is aged over 24 months in a bourbon barrel and finished with hand-charred Kiawe. BRUM is carried by Mama’s Fish House and the Distillery Cafe. The bottle can only be purchased directly from the distillery’s shop, which carries all of their spirits as well as souvenirs, such as T-shirts, hats, and flasks. This full-bodied rum has the taste of whiskey, and should only be served neat or in a rum Old Fashioned.
Cafe at Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
After our tasting, we found a menu and ordered some cocktails and food to enjoy on the lawn. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the “Mac Nut Pesto Farmbread,” as well as the “Thai Veggie Summer Rolls LTD.” The “Ocean Poke Bowl” was also on the menu for our group, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by my pescatarian companions. As a die-hard gin fan, I was surprised by the fact that the “Lilikoi Crush” cocktail, containing the Kula Toasted Coconut Rum, island lilikoi, housemade Thai basil syrup, and fresh lemon was unanimously voted by our group to be the most delicious.
While the lawn is a fantastic place to catch the gorgeous Hawaiian sunset, the West Maui mountains and the lush, sprawling acres of farmland also give a great backdrop for selfies and group pictures. Make sure to tag the distillery in any social media posts!
Tour Schedule, Pricing, and Booking
The Guided Tasting Experience is offered 7 days a week (except holidays) every hour beginning at 12:00pm and ending at 5:00pm and can be booked on their website at this link: https://hawaiiseaspirits.com/tastings/
The cost is $14.40 per person for those who will be participating in the tasting (ages 21 and over). Designated Drivers and visitors ages 20 years and under can join for free, without consuming alcohol, of course.
Kama Aina Discount, Military Discount, and Senior Citizen Discount
Discounts for the Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery Tasting Experience include 10% off for Kama Aina, Military, and Senior Citizens with proper ID (one discount applicable per person).
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About the Author
Madelyn Marie Kittle is a graduate of the Creative Writing program at Appalachian State University. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her partner and their very spoiled dog, Bowie, but enjoys visiting Maui whenever she possibly can.